Retaining Good Tradesmen – Bonus Blog.
The flat roof blog also appears today as promised. Part of this material was originally posted in response to last week’s replies, but we felt it should be a separate blog.
Two more ideas on getting the best out of tradesmen:
They need space to work. If they are getting in each other’s way much time can get wasted. It’s vital to sequence things correctly to avoid this. For instance, no one else can be expected to work in any room being plastered. Decorators need a clean and dust-free environment to do good work, so they too should have rooms to themselves. And you can’t really expect anyone to work if there is excessive dust, for instance if someone is using a concrete grinder nearby. I try to have everyone else off-site when knock-throughs are being cut.
In these recessionary times it may be possible to negotiate on price, but with caveats. So if you get competitive quotes and your preferred tradesman comes out much more expensive than others and you think his quote is excessive, you may be able to point this out and negotiate him down. This happened to my electrician just yesterday. He wasn’t very happy about it but he agreed to come down because he needs the work.
Now the caveats. Beware as some so-called tradespeople are just chancers, while others may put in a very low first quote to a new client as a ‘loss leader’ to get further work later on. If your preferred tradesperson’s quote is already broadly reasonable, in my opinion it’s best not to haggle. It risks offending people and they will give you a lower priority in future. There is someone who I won’t do any work at all for any more because he’s such a cheapskate. So he has to make do with ‘dodgy geezers’ who cut corners but are prepared to work for less. I know, because I’ve put right a few of their ‘dodges’. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
This same person converted a house to flats last year. He didn’t realise that he needed to build sound-proofing between the floors, and that it had to be independently tested. Neither did his builder, who I’ll call ‘Bodgit and Scarper’ (B&S). Even though it’s been law since 2003 and this was 2009. The Building Inspector soon put them right on that, and B&S made sure they got paid right up to date then scarpered. He got another cheap B&S type crew in to do the soundproofing, but because of poor detailing it failed the (very expensive) acoustic test. So then he had to get a proper builder, someone known to me, in to fix the problem, and get it tested again. Altogether his ‘saving’ on cheap builders saw him out of pocket by over £10K. It’s worth keeping good tradesmen on side and cost-effective in the long run.
EDIT: I didn’t mention this one before as I would have thought it was obvious, but apparently it’s not and I’ve even come across some very experienced property people who make this deadly mistake. What is it? Do not EVER pay tradesmen in advance. Why? Because if you do you have just removed this main motivation for doing the work promptly and to a good standard. You need to keep the builder a bit hungry to keep him motivated to move your job on speedily. At the same time you don’t want to pay too little too late because if he gets annoyed with you he’s not going to want to co-operate either. It’s not hard to get the balance right with a bit of experience. An ability to understand, deal with and get on well with other people in general will help.
Once there is some work done then it’s reasonable for the builder to ask for stage payments. Some people like to have stages defined as part of a written contract. That may be useful for non-builders or those who don’t necessarily know how to evaluate work done i.e. most people. Personally I’ve never done it that way as I don’t need to. You should never pay the full value of the work done, just a reasonable proportion of it. Be courteous and respectful, but keep them a bit hungry and they will keep coming back promptly!